East Renfrewshire Council’s phased approach to increasing the amount of free childcare available to residents has already benefitted 100 families.
Since August, children meeting set criteria have been able to access more than double the amount of time at a council nursery than was previously available.
Local authorities currently provide 600 free hours a year for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.
As part of changes being introduced by the Scottish Government, this will increase to 1,140 hours by August 2020, which is in effect a rise to 30 hours per week, matching the amount of time children spend each week in primary school.
The council’s phased approach to increasing provision has the aim of meeting the new target prior to the 2020 deadline, as well as instantly providing some children and families with increased free early learning and childcare.
Councillor Paul O’Kane, Convener for Education and Equalities, said: “The council’s expansion plan was thought out carefully to ensure that we were able to implement a model which still delivered the quality early years’ experience we expect for our young people. By implementing the expansion in this phased approach it is clearly already delivering for many families across the area. It has also allowed us to test new staffing models and introduce lunches to reflect the fact that many children are now able to access full day nursery provision through their increased entitlement.”
The first phase of the council’s roll-out was to make increased hours available at four facilities – Arthurlie Family Centre, Isobel Mair Family Centre for those with additional support needs, Braidbar Nursery Class and Busby Nursery Class.
Until the council’s expansion plan is fully implemented, access to these places is limited and so criteria are in place to identify children who are eligible to benefit.
As the council moves to the next stage of the expansion plan, it is planned to introduce partnerships with childminders from August 2019, offering parents the opportunity to access their free entitlement through a more blended approach.
The council is also currently in partnership with 13 early learning and childcare providers, and work is ongoing to increase the number of funded partners available, which includes childminders and private and voluntary nurseries.
The final phase of the plan, which will play a significant part in supporting the council in delivering the increased provision, will be the creation of five new nurseries by August 2020.
A £23m investment is being made by the council to build a centre within Overlee Park, one which will also replace the outdated Crookfur Pavilion, a replacement for Glenwood Family Centre on an adjacent site, and two new centres within the grounds of Busby and Eaglesham primaries.
Other existing nurseries will also be developed as part of the expansion plan, with a further £3.3m being invested to create a new 60 place nursery class extension at Cross Arthurlie Primary, plus improved facilities at Hazeldene Family centre, Carolside Nursery Class and Braidbar Nursery Class.
For more detail about the council’s roll-out of increased free childcare provision, go to the council’s website